Fantasy NASCAR: Crew Chief Changes

by Tim Piotrowski on January 9, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Crew chief changes can make the world of difference for drivers and your fantasy teams. Read on to find out which moves will impact your favorite drivers the most.

Rodney Childers

Driver: David Reutimann
Current Team: No. 00 Toyota - Michael Waltrip Racing
Former Team: Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Analysis: Childers will be moving to Michael Waltrip Racing after a three-year stint as a crew chief for Richard Childress Racing. He spent the entire 2008 season as crew chief for Elliott Sadler's No. 19 Car. He led the No. 19 team to one victory, two top-five and two top-10 finishes last season. Childers did a good job keeping the car running since Sadler failed to finish three races, all of which were do to accidents and nothing mechanical. One downside was that the No. 19 Car's average finish was 22.8, which likely can be placed on the driver, and he finished 30th or worst 10 times. Childers should be able to bring at least a little bit of improvement to Reutimann, who was able to rack up only four top-10 finishes and an average finish of 23.3.

Doug Randolph

Driver: Aric Almirola
Current Team: No. 8 Chevrolet - Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
Former Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Analysis: Randolph is a familiar face to the Earnhardt side of the newly merged company since he was the crew chief for their No. 15 car last season. Randolph's car last season did not find much success last season, posting no wins, top-five or top-10 finishes. The best finish posted by the team was a 12th-place finish. The team was not able to crack the top 30 in nine races this season. He will be working with a driver who raced in six events last season and was able to finish only three of the races. Since Randolph has experience as a crew chief, he should be able to help Almirola to some degree this season.

Darian Grubb

Driver: Tony Stewart
Current Team: No. 14 Chevrolet - Stewart-Haas Racing
Former Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Analysis: Grubb becomes one of the luckier individuals in NASCAR with his appointment of crew chief for the No. 14 car of the newly formed Stewart Haas Racing. Last year, he was the engineering manager for the No. 5 and No. 88 cars at Hendrick Motorsports. He brings some experience with him to Stewart-Haas Racing. He was Jimmie Johnson's interim crew chief for four races in 2006 and led him to two wins, including the Daytona 500. He also sent the entire 2007 season as crew chief for Casey Mears and the No. 5 car. He led Mears to one win, five top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes during that season, finishing 15th in the points standings in the process. Grubb should also be help since Stewart will be using a Hendrick chassis and engine this season. He is unlikely to have much of an impact since he will be working for one of the more successful drivers in the Sprint Cup series, though.

Drew Blickensderfer

Driver: Matt Kenseth
Current Team: No. 17 Ford - Roush Fenway Racing
Former Team: Roush Fenway Racing (Nationwide)

Analysis: Blickensderfer gets promoted to the Sprint Cup Series after having success in the Nationwide Series. He has worked with Kenseth in the Nationwide Series with some success. He first became Kenseth's crew chief in 2007 and stayed until midway through the 2008 season when he moved over to become Carl Edwards' Nationwide crew chief. During the first half of last season, he helped Kenseth win three races, and after the move he helped Edwards win seven of the last 19 races in the Nationwide Series. In the Sprint Cup Series, Kenseth had a very successful season, finishing in the top five in nine races and in the top 10 in 20 races, which helped him finish 11th in the points standings. The familiarity with Kenseth should be a positive for Blickensderfer, but it may take him some races to feel comfortable as a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series.

Donnie Wingo

Driver: Jamie McMurray
Current Team: No. 26 Ford - Roush Fenway Racing
Former Team: Chip Ganassi Racing

Analysis: Wingo leaves Ganassi Racing to reunite with McMurray, who he worked with at Ganassi Racing for three seasons. Wingo was able to find moderate success as the crew chief of the No. 41 car last season, posting three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes, but the team's average finish was only 24.4 last season. McMurray is coming off a fairly successful season in 2008. He won one race in addition to having three top-five and nine top-10 finishes during the season. This change of crew chiefs should help the No. 26 team become even more competitive because of the same relationship the two had a couple of years ago.

Shane Wilson

Driver: Clint Bowyer
Current Team: No. 33 Chevrolet - Richard Childress Racing
Former Team: Richard Childress Racing (Nationwide)

Analysis: Wilson joins the No. 33 team and brings some experience as a crew chief in all levels of NASCAR. He most recently had two successful seasons as a crew chief in the Nationwide Series. He led the Nationwide's No. 21 to 10 wins in 2006 and six wins in 2007. He also has experience as a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series, heading the Penske Racing's No. 77 Car in 2005. He will be teaming up with a driver who was very successful last season. Bowyer had one victory, five top-fives and 17 top-10s during the season, finishing in third place in the point standings. This new collaboration along with the fact that Bowyer will be driving a new car may result in some struggles early in the season, but Wilson is confident the union will work out well.

Tony Gibson

Driver: Ryan Newman
Current Team: No. 39 Chevrolet - Stewart-Haas Racing
Former Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Analysis: Gibson will be moving from Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he was the crew chief for the No. 8 car, to take the same position for the No. 39 Car for the new Stewart-Haas Racing team. He worked with both Mark Martin and Aric Almirola in the No. 8 Chevrolet. Gibson led Martin four top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes in 24 races, finishing 28th in the point standings. He also led Almirola to one top-10 finish in 12 races. He will be teaming up with Newman who has also made the switch to SHR. Newman had a decent season in 2008, posting two top-five and seven top-10 finishes but was unable to win a race or make the Chase for the Cup, finishing 18th in the standings. Like any new combination, Gibson may need some time to adjust to the situation, but should be able to help Newman be competitive this season.

Frank Kerr

Driver: Marcos Ambrose
Current Team: No. 47 Toyota - JTG Daugherty Racing
Former Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Analysis: Kerr comes aboard with some experience as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief as well as some experience working with Ambrose. He worked as the crew chief of the No. 7 ride in 2005 and was the crew chief of the No. 00 car in 2007. Last season, he was the crew chief of Ambrose during select events for multiple teams. The two had a good head start late last season, working together in the final four races of the Sprint Cup Series, with their top finish being 18th. Since this is a team essentially just getting off the ground, no new crew chief likely would be able to make a significant difference this season, including Kerr.

Ryan Pemberton

Driver: Brian Vickers
Current Team: No. 83 Toyota - Red Bull Racing
Former Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Analysis: Pemberton moves over from Michael Waltrip Racing to take the same position with Brian Vickers and the No. 83 Toyota. He did not find much success as the crew chief of the No. 44 car driven by David Reutimann last season. The No. 44 team was only able to post four top-10 finishes, and his average finish was 23.3. He will now be working with a driver who was able to post some very good numbers in 2008. Vickers in the No. 83 earned three top-five finishes, as well as six top-10 finishes, and ended up 19th in the point standings. Since Pemberton is an experienced crew chief, he should be able to help the performance of the No. 83 car this season.

Larry Carter

Driver: Paul Menard
Current Team: No. 98 Ford - Yates Racing
Former Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Analysis: Carter will be joining Menard and his new No. 98 Ford team at Yates Racing. Both are coming from different companies, so things might take some time to gel. Carter led the No. 26 team to a pretty successful season. The No. 26 car had one victory, three top-fives and nine top-10 finishes last year, finishing 17th in the point standings. He will be working with Menard, who struggled last season. He was not able to post a victory, a top-five finish or even a top-10 finish. His best finish was 12th place. He ended the season a disappointing 34th in the point standings. Carter may be able to improve Menard's performance because of his experience with some previously successful teams.

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About Tim Piotrowski

Piotrowski has been a Hot Off the Wire analyst since 2007.

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